If I could have my own way, and if I could persuade the political parties of my country to let me write it, what would a National Strategy For Pollinators look like?
In the UK, as I write there is much lively political debate, with competing parties having had conferences, and some with manifestos on the table.
Wildlife specific policy scarcely gets a look in, but this doesn’t mean we should stop talking about and insisting on the need to protect bees, pollinators, and indeed invertebrates generally.
In the UK, policy manifestos are short summaries, with perhaps one or two sentences to explain each point. So, if I were to write a national pollinator strategy - i.e. an outline of what we should do to protect bees and other pollinators, it might look something like this:
According to evidence presented by the UK Environment Audit Committee investigation, Pollinators and Pesticides, two thirds to three quarters of Britain’s pollinator species are declining, yet wild pollinators conduct 90% of pollination in the UK. It is therefore imperative to food security, the wider environment, horticulturists, and gardeners, for action to be taken to safeguard pollinators.
Ensure farmer incentive and benefit schemes are contingent upon the creation of
pollinator habitats. Farmland pollinator
margins and hedgerows are beneficial to farmers and pollinators, and their
creation should be encouraged.
Some bumblebee species are available to growers for use in poly tunnels, as well as the general public for use in their gardens. These are native species, but reared overseas.
Despite efforts to control for disease by public bodies, independent research suggests there may be a risk to wild bumblebee species from commercially reared specimens (1).
Bumblebee nests are temporary, and bumblebee species face particular challenges. Yet nests are often destroyed by members of the public, quite unnecessarily, and through ignorance. There are many ways to minimise possible contact with bumblebees from nearby nests, and the risks of serious injury through stinging by bumblebees are very minimal.
Monitoring of species abundance enables us to understand our impact on the environment, which in turn can help inform legislation, and support given to farm owners and land managers.
Therefore, we should have formal, standardized and regular monitoring, and possibly contracted out to universities.
indicates that farmers may use insecticides quite unnecessarily. For example, a study by ADAS (2) clearly
indicated that between 1988 and 2006, the threat of pollen beetle did not
warrant chemical use by farmers, yet farmers very significantly over-used insecticides
(at no doubt, significant cost).
With articles in the farming press by the agro-chemical industry, pushing the notion that there is a threat of pollen beetle, and agronomists being paid commissions for selling pesticides, it’s clear Farmers need access to accurate, timely and independent information.
I would also suggest that the agro-chemical industry needs to be regulated so that the promotion (however
subtle) of pesticides use by the misrepresentation of a 'pest threat', is illegal.
Noting the controversial move of Government (Defra) civil servants (such as Fera’s Helen Thompson, CRD’s Peter Campbell) to industry employment, we should take action to restore trust in regulators and influential government bodies.
We should seek ways to minimise undue
influence of industry on government employees to ensure that decisions by
public servants are not seen to be motivated by personal gain, including employment
in the private sector(3).
For example, this may be achieved by extending the right of the general public to use the Civil Servant’s Code of Conduct to complain against a government employee, and by ensuring the balance of duty of civil servants is first and foremost to the public good, not to commercial interests, (and this should be reflected in the mission statements of DEFRA bodies).
Last but not least...........
As a group of chemicals, Neonicotinoids and systemic insecticides have been examined by the UK Environment Audit Committee,EFSA, and in addition, an international co-operation (the IUCN) examined over 800 peer-reviewed, scientific studies(5) and published their findings in the journal Environment Science and Pollution Research.
The conclusions clearly indicate a risk to pollinators and other invertebrates, whilst some studies also suggest a risk to birds(6).
EFSA took some months in their examinations of 3 neonicotinoids Fipronil, a similar systemic insecticide, and yet given the findings, the EU ruling did not adequately address the concerns raised when considering the properties of neonicotinoids, in particular, that they remain in the soil for a very long time, and hence residues may build with successive applications; they may trespass beyond treatment zones; they can contaminate water sources; and have subtle, sub-lethal and chronic effects. Given these properties, the partial restriction limited to 2 years advocated by the EU, is inadequate.
(1)The Trojan hives: pollinator pathogens, imported and distributed in bumblebee colonies by Peter Graystock et al, (publ. Jul 2013, Journal of Applied Ecology)
(2)Re-evaluating thresholds for pollen beetle in oilseed rape; HGCA Project No. 2005; ADAS www.adas.co.uk
(3) Government bee scientist behind
controversial study joins pesticide firm: MP raises fears that
government agency and pesticides industry are 'too close' as Dr Helen Thompson moves to Syngenta; The Guardian, Friday 26 July 2013
(4) Drug Regulation: History, Present and Future; Lembit Rägo, Budiono Santoso.
The Worldwide Integrated Assessment of the Impact of Systemic
Pesticides on Biodiversity and Ecosystems www.tfsp.info.
(6) Declines in insectivorous birds are associated with high neonicotinoid concentrations; Hallmann et al; Nature 511, 341–343 (17 July 2014) doi:10.1038/nature13531.
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